“The sport factor ultimately tipped the balance” says the 20-year-old who did not even consider going to Africa. “I had to start from scratch there and it’s really exciting to build up an entire structure piece by piece. Other sports, like football, of course are easier to organise. You don’t need boats or water.”


It all started a year ago with Wilk going to Ruacana where she taught physical education in the Nakayala Private School. “The children came from small villages,” says Wilk.


Then two weeks later, Wilk had to move as there was no longer guaranteed safety from dangerous animals. The Namibian Canoe & Rowing Federation had been established in Walvis Bay for some time, but they were waiting for help to get the Federation going. Wilk stepped in.


“Rowing is my passion and I loved doing competitive sport. I am passionate about passing on my knowledge,” says Wilk.


The basic requirement for rowing training is making sure the athlete can swim. Swimming is not a matter of course generally in African countries. So, as well as being a teacher at the local school, Wilk began teaching swimming and organising the rowing activities.


In February this year the first three boats arrived and Wilk started doing rowing lessons as well as training trainers. “Step by step you gain more security and can do more thing.” Wilk was hoping to start swimming training for young athletes, but the Covid-19 pandemic had by this stage reached Namibia and so Wilk had to leave early.


But from her home in Germany, Wilk continues the Namibia rowing project. She remains in regular contact with her colleagues in Namibia. “It’s important that our development work is sustainable and that this project runs without me,” says Wilk who is organising more boats to go to Walvis Bay following donations by German rowing clubs.


 




Lea Wilk giving advice on training in Namibia – Photo Detlev Seyb
© Detlev Seyb/myrowingphoto.com



 


Rowing in Namibia


The country, which is small in area for the African continent, is attractive for rowing with 300 days of sunshine per year. However, there are very few places suitable for rowing. In 1998 the first efforts were made to establish rowing in Namibia – at the Oanaobstausee, not far from the capital Windhoek. A base for rowers and canoeists was established with the support of the German Rowing Federation and volunteers from ASC Gottingen, who support the training.


In the meantime, Namibia has its first rower to qualify for the Olympic Games. Maike Diekmann, 25, has secured a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games through the African continental qualification regatta. Diekmann will race in the women’s single sculls. She is currently training in South Africa.


ASC Gottingen


ASC Gottingen arranges international voluntary services in sport. Along with Wilk about 100 volunteers went this year to a number of African countries. “This is a very good experience for life,” says Wilk. “It sometimes helps with professional orientation and you learn a lot about another country.”


Donations for the rowing project


Wilk is still looking for support for her project. Contact Wilk directly: lea.wilk@t-online.de


Copy by Detlev Seyb

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